Ever Notice That Christians Don’t Care About or Value Singleness, Unless Jesus Christ’s Singleness and Celibacy is Doubted or Called Into Question by Scholars?
Have you ever noticed how many conservative Christians ignore the unmarried, or treat them like trash? Because they either don’t stop to even think about single people or singleness at all, or they seem to regard singleness as a flawed state….however…
Whenever a Non-Christian author or liberal scholar speculates that perhaps Jesus was married with children, O the scandal! The pearl- clutching! The fainting that goes on! Someone break out the smelling salts!
When Non Christian author Dan Brown released “The DaVinci Code” book, and it was made into a movie starring Tom Hanks, American Christians went into an uproar: how dare anyone suggest Jesus was not unmarried, had kids, and was not celibate!
I couldn’t help think of all that when I saw this article this morning:
You see, most Christians do not respect singleness and they generally treat it like the plague, or else don’t give it a second thought, but, like good hypocrites they are, singlehood becomes of preeminent importance to them concerning Jesus of Nazareth specifically, when His celibacy or marital state is called into question.
Here are a few excerpts from the article “Apologetics: Why the Singleness of Jesus Makes the Best Sense of the Historical Evidence” by Jones:
:: What Early Christians Had to Say About the Singleness of Jesus ::
Dr. King has presented the so-called “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” as evidence that arguments over the singleness of Jesus were a pressing issue among second-century Christians. The fragment provides “direct evidence,” according to King, “that claims about Jesus’s marital status first arose over a century after the death of Jesus in the context of intra-Christian controversies over sexuality, marriage, and discipleship.”
In other words, second-century Christians were arguing about issues related to sex and marriage. In the midst of these arguments, some Christians claimed Jesus was married while others said he wasn’t.
The second- and third-century sources do not, however, support this supposition. In the first place, while certainly possible, it’s far from certain whether the fourth-century fragment known as The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife was translated from any second-century text. More likely than not, this fragment is a modern forgery.
Even if we assume for a moment that the fragment is authentic, Coptic texts of this sort did not emerge in the context of “intra-Christian controversies” but from breakaway Gnostic sects, groups that had already rejected the witness of the apostolic eyewitnesses. The primary concern of the Gnostics would not have been whether Jesus was actually married but how they might portray Jesus in a way that would illustrate their own myths and rituals.
Yet what of the earliest Christian mentions of Jesus and marriage? Do they suggest intense “intra-Christian controversies” that resulted in competing “claims about Jesus’s marital status”?
In fact, in the first Christian references to Jesus’s marital status, I find no hint of competing claims about whether Jesus was married or single.
The earliest Christian writer to refer explicitly to the singleness of Jesus seems to have been Clement of Alexandria. Clement was a theologian who began teaching in Alexandria around A.D. 180. In the closing years of the second century, Clement wrote against false teachers who had declared marriage taboo; these false teachers had claimed that “marriage is the same as sexual immorality.” While arguing against these heretics, Clement commented that Jesus “did not marry” (Stromata 3:6:49).
:: “The Lord…Already Had a Bride” ::
Despite multiple media melees over the past few years that have implied otherwise, there is simply no reliable historical evidence to support the supposition that Jesus was married.
The earliest references to Jesus’s marital status assume his singleness, and the writers seem unaware that anyone might think otherwise. Suggestions that Jesus had an earthly wife originated in historically-suspect sources, written a century or more after Jesus walked the earth.
… * In the earliest surviving Christian sermon—preached in the early-to-mid-second century—the pastor proclaimed, “‘God made man male and female.’ The male is Christ, and the female is the church” (2 Clement).
* Clement of Alexandria himself gave this as the primary reason for Jesus’s lifelong virginity: “The Lord…already had a bride, the church”—and these are only a few of many such references from the first centuries of Christian faith.
So what do all these metaphors have to do with the marital status of the historical Jesus?
If Jesus had been married, it seems that these references to the church as his bride would have—at the very least—required some further explanation. Perhaps a reference to his “spiritual bride” and his “earthly bride,” or some other shade of distinction offered to distinguish the church’s relationship to Jesus.
:: Why the Singleness of Jesus Makes the Most Sense ::
Several years ago, The Da Vinci Codebreaker—a book I cowrote with my friend Jim Garlow—hit the bestseller lists about the same time that Sony Pictures released the movie The Da Vinci Code. As a result, dozens of television and radio stations interviewed one or both of us in the space of a few weeks. At some point during that flurry of interviews, one interviewer asked me, “Why are you so against the idea that Jesus was married?”
“I’m not,” I replied after a second or two of reflection. “If I woke up tomorrow morning and saw that archaeologists had exhumed incontrovertible evidence that Jesus was married, it wouldn’t destroy my faith. Jesus would still be the crucified and risen Lord. But, as I examine the historical evidence, I find absolutely no substantial evidence to suggest that Jesus was married. And I find even less evidence of some sort of church-wide cover-up. I’m not against the idea that Jesus was married. What I’m against is the weak historical basis of such a supposition.”
The idea of a married Messiah wasn’t rejected among the earliest Christians because such a revelation would cause the Christian faith to fall apart—it might cause theologians to rethink the way they frame some doctrines, but no essential belief in the Christian faith hinges on the singleness of Jesus. A married Jesus wasn’t rejected because early Christians wanted to degrade the gift of sexuality—with few exceptions, they didn’t.
The marriage of Jesus didn’t become part of the church’s story of Jesus for a single reason: In all the eyewitness testimonies to the life of Jesus and later reflections on his life, no reliable proof exists for such a marriage. The announcement of a so-called “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” has done nothing to change that fact.
Truly sad and pathetic that singleness and virginity are paid no respect or given no importance among Christians unless it is Jesus of Nazareth in particular who is being discussed.
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